Russo-Ukrainian War: An Indian Perspective
“An enemy of an enemy is a friend”. Since ancient times, political and military alliances have been formed based on this simple principle. It doesn’t matter if you disagree on a host of issues, a dispute with a longtime enemy can be set aside to deal with immediate threats to survival.
The formation of the Janata Party as a political party from Jan Sangh in 1975 to counter the urgency of Indira Gandhi is a prime Indian political example of this. It is therefore no surprise that they broke up in less than 3 years despite the great leadership of the late Prime Minister Morarji Desai. In 1980 Mrs Gandhi returned to power despite the atrocities committed during the 18 month emergency. At least the Janata government has changed the Indian Constitution enough to prevent any future Indian Prime Minister from declaring another emergency unless there is violent inside information.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed a spade among the pigeons by launching this offensive against Ukraine. This should come as no surprise as he already annexed Crimea in 2014, which was part of Ukraine. Putin is fighting intimidation from NATO, which includes Eastern European countries that were part of the USSR to gain access to the Russian border to try to ensure that Putin who grew up in the former Soviet Union fails in its dream of reuniting the failed state of the USSR. Putin considers himself a patriot and nationalist having grown up during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s. He held various positions in the Russian intelligence apparatus and later headed the FSB in the late 1990s. The FSB is the Russian intelligence agency that succeeded the KGB after the Cold War.
India has had a very close association with the USSR since independence as we adopted a closed market policy emulating the Russian model of take from the rich and give to the poor. It was supposed to bring equality to a young country that was sharply divided over caste and financial disparity. However, history has repeatedly shown the failure of this model.
During World War II, Hitler was determined to restore Germany to its rightful status as a world power. This was largely motivated by the Treaty of Versailles, which humiliated Germany and blamed it for World War I. Under this treaty, Germany was imposed with heavy sanctions to prevent another world war. It had the exact opposite effect and Hitler came to power on this humiliation of the German people on a nationalist platform. Absolute Power corrupted Hitler, leading to war crimes never heard of before or since. As the Axis powers continued to expand, Winston Churchill extended his hand to FD Roosevelt as London came under heavy air attack. FDR like Biden was currently providing financial and military aid without engaging on the ground due to limited support for the war by the American masses who did not see it as their fight. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor reversed this mood and the United States entered World War II.
Joseph Stalin unsuccessfully attempted to create an anti-Hitler alliance with the West in 1939 and eventually signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler that encouraged the German dictator to attack Poland and start war. In mid-1941, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union as part of his plans for eastward expansion. Subsequently, the “Big Three” – Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill – met three times to counter Hitler’s offensive. After the war, Germany was divided into East and West Germany. West Germany follows the free market economy of the United States and United Kingdom, with East Germany aligning itself with the socialist system of its neighbour, the Soviet Union.
The Global Investment division of Goldman Sachs published a research paper in 2001 and introduced the concept of BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which indicated the countries that were supposed to be an attractive investment destination at this that time. Therefore, the current BRICS political association is irrelevant in the current world order. To counter BRICS influence, Americans have recently considered the Quad, which includes the United States, India, Japan and Australia. Since its defeat in World War II at the hands of the United States, Japan has aligned itself with the United States’ position on international events and Australia is an isolated island with little or no influence on world politics. Interestingly, Australia recently unilaterally canceled a major submarine contract with France under the cover of another association AUKUS, which guaranteed military security to Australia in exchange for the purchase of weapons manufactured in United States, stimulating the American defense industry.
Last month, the Chinese foreign minister made a surprise arrival in New Delhi and met with Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar. Despite public comments of opposition to the war, this visit could have been motivated by Russia, which finds itself increasingly isolated. Russia wants to ensure that India continues to trade with them despite the imposed sanctions. To counter this, US NSA Deputy Daleep Singh traveled to India to warn New Delhi not to pursue business relations with Russia in violation of these sanctions. Russia upped its game by sending its foreign minister to India, who apart from meeting Jaishankar also called the prime minister later in the day. The optics of this make it clear where the administration aligns. Concerned by this stance and reports that India is buying Russian crude at $35 off, the United States continued to warn India against increasing its imports from Russia. However, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she respects India’s decision to buy oil at a discount from Russia, even as she pushed for more sanctions against Russia. India is believed to have purchased at least 13 million barrels of oil at a discount after the invasion of Ukraine, compared to 16 million barrels for the whole of last year, according to data compiled by Reuters.
Currently, the most sanctioned nation in the world is the DPRK, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Yes, North Korea is a democratic republic and holds regular elections, with the Kim family always winning without opposition. The Kim family still views South Korea as part of a united Korea and blames the United States for dividing their country along the arbitrary 38th parallel. The border between North Korea and South Korea, popularly known as the DMZ (demilitarized zone), lives up to its name and is the most heavily guarded international border, with the United States providing the bulk boots on the ground to support South Korea. .
When Germany and Korea split, one adopted a market economy and the other a free market depending on whether they were supported by the Americans or the Russians during the war. In a way, Putin’s claim for Ukraine might be disguised in Russia in a way that is no different from the way India asserts its claim to Pakistan and Chinese-occupied Kashmir.
Riding the wave of recently concluded assembly elections in key states like Uttar Pradesh, the incumbent prime minister is expected to be confident of his chances of winning a record third term in 2024. History will remember from a patriotic nationalist to a ruthless authoritarian only time will tell since history is always written by the victors.